Dan Dare in Australia

Second Issue - 28th May 1953
Last Issue - 27th January 1955

"Australia's New National Boys' Magazine" the Eagle was published by Advertiser Newspaper Limited of Adelaide from 21st May 1953 (Vol.1 No.1) to 27th January 1955 (Vol.2 No.37), a total of 86 issues. The quality of the paper and reproduction was much inferior to its UK counterpart. Dan and other favourites were present, as to was Luck of the Legion, later to be replaced with Skippy the Kangaroo by Danet, Dubrisay and Genestre. Even this arrangment did not last more than six months, when the tough legionnaire reclaimed his centre spot.

As Australian reader Ray Edmonson points out to me: "In general, the Australian edition seemed to print things in the same sequence as they appeared in the UK edition – albeit 3 years later. Some obvious editorial judgments were made to omit certain UK material – for example, the early episodes of Jeff Arnold, drawn rather sketchily by Angus Scott, were never included. In Australia, Riders of the Range began with “Jeff Arnold and the Black Shadow”.

There were some text features of Australian origin, but mostly the content was a reprint of the UK material.

The Australian Eagle was published by the Adelaide “Advertiser”, then (as now) the main newspaper of that city. The paper stock was newsprint and the colour printing was coarse screen letterpress, with colour on one side of the sheet only (so Dan Dare appeared in colour on the cover and page 4 – pages 2 and 3 had other material in black and white).

The same short period – the early 50s - saw the flowering of several worthy local magazines for children – including Junior’s Journal, The Australian Boy and The Silver Jacket (the latter publishing Biggles stories). They all had high standards and short lives. Perhaps Australia simply didn’t have a large enough population to support them. Towards the end of their runs they economized by reducing the page count or cutting back on colour printing. The format of Eagle didn’t allow much scope for that kind of adjustment – if it couldn’t work as a 16 page letterpress weekly copied from a UK original it couldn’t work at all. Quite possible, the Advertiser’s agreement with Hulton Press required some level of minimum quality also, so in the end there was no option but to kill it.

Not only did the Silver Jacket print Biggles, who was top of the popularity charts here when I was a boy, but it also advertised the Biggles radio serial – which ran for many years and many episodes (which are now preserved in the National Film and Sound Archive). What’s more, for its first two years, the Silver Jacket ran stories of Carcroft School by Frank Richards – some, apparently, were reprints but others were written specifically for the Silver Jacket. Editor Arthur Gorfain was obviously proud of his friendship with Richards. And it worked – Billy Bunter books sold well here at the time, albeit depicting a school milieu quite foreign to Australian kids." Thanks for this Ray.

Australian readers could also join "The Australian Eagle Club" and receive membership cards and Eagle badges. It seems unlikely that these club items were sent out from the UK. The Australian Eagle badge was stamped on the back "A. J. Parkes, Brisbane", unlike its UK counterpart which was not stamped at all. Due, presumably, to flagging sales, the Australian Eagle launched a competition to its readers. All they had to do was "recruit" another 2 new readers and they would get a special Silver Eagle badge (12 new readers got you a Gold Eagle badge) as a reward. If anyone has one of these, I would really like to see it.

One feels that the decision to cease publication was made rather quickly, as issue 86 has a complete page of synopsis' telling the reader how the various stories ended. In the last issue John Collins, The Editor, writes:

    With this issue, arrangements for the publication of "Eagle" in Australia come to an end. We hope all readers have enjoyed the publication. So that they may continue to read the adventures of Dan Dare and their other favourites, arrangements have been made for copies of the English edition of "Eagle", printed in photogravure, to be available from newsagents throughout Australia from next week onwards.

Thus Australian readers who were currently half way through The Red Moon Mystery in the Australian version, were hurtled into the beginning of The Prisoners of Space in the UK version!

Interestingly enough the Dan Dare radio show (as aired on Radio Luxembourg) was also available in Australia by tuning in to 4AK QLD or 4BK QLD Radio each Monday and Tuesday at 18:15. Unlike the Radio Luxembourg version, this show was sponsored by Joysticks (Who were they? Did they also produce Dan Dare promotioal items? If anyone knows, please get in touch.)


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